Monday, December 22, 2008

Mounting Losses

I jinxed the team with my last post. That is the only thing that comes to mind after writing about two wins against the Raptors. It wasn't bad enough that King James ruled the Ford Center -- LeBron may have taken any chance of a Thunder inside game with him.

Nick Collison broke a bone in his left hand against Cleveland, and reports are now coming out that New Jersey has interest in retaining seven-footer Nenad Krstic. These two revelations coupled with the imposing stretch of games ahead has Oklahoma City looking for a silver lining.

With five games left in December, the Thunder have a lot of room to grow and a foundation in place thanks to Coach Brooks. This was very evident during the game last night, as Kevin Durant and a strong defense kept the contest closer than the first go-around. Sure, Cleveland pulled away and won by eleven, but the real story was how OKC didn't fold against one of the NBA's best.

Durant took another step in becoming an elite small forward, making plays against possibly the top player in the game. James is getting all of the attention right now for how his team is playing, but he also has a strong supporting cast. Durant's recent stretch includes seven straight games with 22 or more points. He poured in 26 to again lead the Thunder, and his confidence is allowing teammates Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green to find their game.

Westbrook took his game to another level and is closing in on his first career triple-double. He and Durant are starting to figure it out together, and that is important with Green still struggling to find his long-range shot.

Three road games will test OKC's front court this week, especially if Collison and Chris Wilcox are not at full strength. The Nets have a week to match the offer to Krstic, or he will become the man in the middle for the Thunder. Green and the rest of the squad can only benefit from a lift in the paint and the knowledge that the OKC front office is trying to make the team better.

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